Eventually your energy runs out. Then you stop breathing. And then you die. That is if your heart doesn’t give out first. (An early death from blood loss would be a mercy.) Crucifixion was execution honed to a fine art.
It also took away every shred of dignity as you died. You died naked, unable to hold back your moans of pain. With the whole world looking on.
2,000 years ago God died on a cross.
Good Friday is no celebration of morbidity. But neither should we look away from the mystery of the cross. To do so is to forget the extent of God’s love for us. And that would pull the plug out from a number of things.
First of all it would make it harder for us to trust Him for our future. There are times when the future is so uncertain. Or downright scary. A child is found to have some unknown ailment. A cancerous growth returns. You have been out of a job for more than a year and your savings are about to run out. And God says trust Him. Trust Him? When my world is falling apart? Are You kidding? And God replies, look at the cross.
“He who did not withhold His own Son, but gave Him up for all of us, will He not with Him also give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32) NRSV
God also tells us to love one another as He has loved us. (John 13: 34-35) To love each other as He has loved us? With the cross as our benchmark? We are overwhelmed by how far short we fall. God forgive us. God forgive me.
Which is why we need a fresh look at the cross this Good Friday. There is great power at work here. God in pain, God at His weakest, overcomes sin, death and Satan. It is a victory confirmed by the resurrection. And this resurrection power is now available to all who are His. Therefore we want to cry along with Paul when he writes:
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Philippians 3:10-12 NRSV
It is in embracing the cross that we share in the resurrection life. And power. Power to trust. Power to love. But to do that we need to know precisely what the cross entailed.
So this Good Friday, don’t flinch as you take a fresh look at the cross. It just might lead to a fresh renewal of faith, hope, and charity.